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4-Horned Navajo Sheep Oldest American Breed
The oldest breed of domestic sheep in the U.S. is making a comeback on a Washington sheep ranch.
Historians think Navajo sheep may have been brought to North America by Viking explorers in the 14th century. They were raised for centuries in the arid south but seem to thrive in any climate, hot or cold. Ingrid Painter, Redmond, Wash., has developed a flock of Navajos which she breeds for both meat and wool.
"We've developed an improved fleece quality which makes the wool highly desirable for handspinners, especially those who want to weave Navajo rugs in the traditional way," Painter told FARM SHOW. "We've maintained the best qualities of the primitive sheep in that they're resistant to internal parasites, hoof rot and many other ailments that plague modern sheep breeds. Ewes are able to lamb unassisted and are superb mothers, capable of raising triplets."
Navajo sheep produce a lean carcass with no excess fat, according to Painter. Lambs can be raised to butcher at 5 to 7 months on pasture alone with a dressed weight of 45 to 50 lbs. Navajo's require little in the way of high protein feed supplements.
Painter says the fleece on Navajos is excellent. "Our fleeces recently won the top five prizes at the largest wool show in the Northwest. Our first place winner also received the longest fleece award."
Many of the rams are 4-horned as well as some of the ewes. The fleece is not all uniform but comes in varying shades. "When I was at the recent World Sheep Congress in New Zealand I was amazed to realize that Navajos have many of the rare color patterns highly sought after by geneticists throughout the world."
Painter sells 4-horned rams at $300 apiece and ewes for $150. She also sells carded and uncarded wool after shearing in the spring.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ingrid Painter, Puddleduck Farm, 1607 232nd Ave. N.E., Redmond, Wash. 98052 (ph 206 885-3508).

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1985 - Volume #9, Issue #4